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February 23, 2008
The schedule for the Under-19 World Cup is so jam packed that, with the tournament only six days old, the eight best teams have already been filtered from the rest. All four groups had clear-cut winners with four Asian teams - Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - winning all three of their first-round matches. West Indies, who were grouped with India and South Africa, are the only Test playing nation to miss out on qualifying for the quarter-finals. It's sudden death now. Here's how the first day of knock-out matches stack up.
England v India
A dramatic collapse against Bangladesh while chasing a mere 150 to win pushed England to second spot in Group D, setting up a quarter-final clash with arguably the toughest team in the tournament - India.
The difference between India and the other sides in the tournament has been the batting. While the other teams have had at least one dodgy performance with the bat, the Indians have had three consistent outings with the top order setting large targets against Papua New Guinea and West Indies, and showing remarkable composure during a run-chase against South Africa. Virat Kohli had said before the tournament began that he considers batting to be the team's strength and so far he's been proven right. Three Indian batsmen - Tanmay Srivastava, Virat and Turuwar Kohli - are among the top four run-scorers in the tournament.
Moreover, the Indian batting line-up has a blend of styles. Srivastava, who has 181 runs in three innings, is capable of building a long innings and also accelerating when the situation demands. The opener Turuwar has spent enough time at the crease to see off the new ball and the middle-order is packed with powerful batsmen such as Virat, who smashed 100 off 74 balls against West Indies, Saurabh Tiwary and Ravindra Jadeja.
However, England's new-ball attack - Steven Finn, the 6'8" bowler from Middlesex, and Glamorgan's James Harris - is likely to be India's sternest test so far. Harris is the tournament's joint-highest wicket-taker with ten wickets. He's had a season's county experience and hits the pitch hard to gain appreciable bounce. Finn, on the other hand, has taken five wickets in two games and his height along with the bounce he generates makes it difficult for batsmen to play him off the front foot. Finn's economy-rate of 1.93 is the best in the tournament for a bowler whose bowled at least 15 overs.
No team has scored over 150 against England yet, although they'll have to put in an exceptional performance to keep that streak going against India.
Bangladesh v South Africa
South Africa had to depend on India beating West Indies to qualify for the quarter-finals and they might have expected to play England, instead of Bangladesh, whose spinners triggered a collapse that pushed them to the top of Group C.
For South Africa, the challenge will be to negotiate Bangladesh's slow bowlers: offspinners Nasir Hossain and Mahmudul Hasan, and the captain Suhrawadi Shuvo, a left-arm spinner. South Africa's batsmen have looked to attack the opposition and the tendency to play one too many shots - rather than build an innings - has resulted in wickets being thrown away. Their run-chase against West Indies was well on course until their middle-order hiccupped against Sharmarh Brooks' legspin and, against India, they lost five wickets to Ravindra Jadeja and Iqbal Abdulla. The positives for them are the bowling form of their captain Wayne Parnell, a left-arm new-ball bowler, and Jonathan Vandiar's attacking batting in the middle-order. Vandiar bowled his legbreaks for the first time in the tournament against Papua New Guinea and picked up 4 for 27.
The Bangladesh top order struggled against England's pace attack: Harris took 5 for 29 out of which four batsmen were dismissed for ducks. South Africa have a line-up filled with medium-pacers who keep a tight line and length. Their accuracy is heightened by excellent fielding and also because the wicketkeeper often stands up to the stumps, making it hard for the batsman to leave his crease.
Bangladesh had toured South Africa in the build-up to this World Cup and there wasn't much to choose between the sides. They drew one Test although South Africa had taken a sizeable first-innings lead, and clinched a one-dayer by a two-wicket margin.
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